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You don't have to be rich, or smart, or good-looking - It's already yours. Tap into it. More than a place, a person, an idea, Passion is a State of Mind.

"Miguel de Cervantes: ...When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness! To surrender dreams---this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash! And maddest of all---to see life as it is and not as it should be!"

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ARTICLE CATEGORY: Passion's Playground

Happiness is Hard Work: The Critique - by Helga Marion Ross
helga
Return of the Daughter of Joy?
According to my armchair philosopher friend, writer/contributor, and graphics artist, Richard Rockwell, this is how he (and perhaps you) see me in terms of my previous essay on the subject of Joy.
Dear me! This is not the impression I had hoped to engender. No, indeed!

"Joy is a being's penultimate intoxication - experienced during states of true gratefulness." - David Coyote


Helgaís Heartlines: A Journal

Monday, July 9th, 2001

Toronto, Ontario


See the picture? Itís not the one that usually accompanies my articles. I trust most of you are familiar with her just the same: Pollyanna. The little orphan girl who always found reasons to be glad, as popularized by Walt Disney and portrayed by delightful Haley Mills.

Well, according to my armchair philosopher friend, mentor, Richard Rockwell, this is how he (and perhaps you) see me in terms of my previous essay on the subject of Joy. Dear me! This is not the impression I had hoped to engender. No, indeed!

PS (It would useful to read the source document first, "Happiness is Hard Work", if you havenít already, in order to better 'appreciate' this one.)

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"Enjoyed your Paper, Helga. May I suggest a sequel? -- Return of the Daughter of Joy."
I might have known. This guy, my sounding board and coach, and sometime fan, (although you probably wouldnít know it, here,) has a way of really cracking me up!
"Oh, come on now, Richard. I should think I have a few too many decades on me to be compared to that too-good-to-be-true, sweet-natured guileless girl."
"Well, you do have some rather childlike qualities...."
"I suppose Iím supposed to be relieved you said childlike and not childish?"
"Now donít go putting words in my mouth. However, I do suggest you might want to implicitly or explicitly remove any misunderstandings readers who donít know you might mistakenly deduce from your paper. For example, consider it in light of Mad Magazineís "What, Me Worry?" Or consider Voltaireís novel Candide, where Voltaire ridicules his foolish protagonist for always saying optimistic things like, "Itís all for the best in this best of all possible worlds"."
Okay...so, we know mentors are stern critics, right?
"At least, in my defense, may I point out that there were one or two valuable lessons dispensed by that saccharine young lady? A rerun might even be beneficial today for we modern, jaded, sophisticated folk...Iíve read reviews that say the movie stands up pretty well given our current politically correct climate and its blindness to its most obvious shortcomings."
No reply.
"Believe it or not, Richard - Who do you think finally answered an important religious question I had been pondering for the longest time? Serendipitous or what? Of all persons, to hear it first from the lips of Pollyanna herself! Ė So - Just how many positive (glad) texts do you think there are in the Bible? Ė Well...?"
"Damned if I know."
"Well, that sweet young thing reminds us, and Reverend Ford in the film, that according to her missionary-preacher father, (sadly, deceased), "he noted over 800 verses in which God tells us to rejoice or be glad or be happy. He was of the opinion that if the Lord took the trouble to tell us more than 800 times that he wants us to rejoice, then he must really mean it"** ---
As you know Richard, Iím not a religious person, in the literal sense, but I can certainly relate to the spirit of his approach. Hellfire and brimstone only succeed in making people dread going to church and fearful of living. Fear and guilt make for a lot of hefty baggage in life. They do not serve the Reverend, or us, well. They mostly serve to make us depressed, unnecessarily."
Still no reply.
Pregnant pause...followed by further justification:
"Pollyannaís second lesson Ė I think thereís something to be said for it, frankly - her so-called Glad Game. She learned it from her father and continues to play it in his memory, to look for something to be happy about in everything that comes her way."
I donít admit it to Richard in so many words, but this is exactly what I do, too.
"Right Helga. Every cloud has a silver lining, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, Always look on the bright side."
"Okay, make fun. It doesnít make the approach any less valid as a way of facing life. Itís not what happens to you, but how you deal with it, thatís most important. Or as Joseph Campbell said, Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy."
I can quote aphorisms, too.
"Itís all very well to urge people to feel joy, Helga, but how is this different from the lady sitting in her Rolls Royce who is offended that poor people arenít kept away from her vision? She says, The poor should be kept out of sight; they are depressing to think about; one should always think happy thoughts? This same rich lady not only lives in a gated community but also tries to keep a gated fence around her awareness of pain, especially the pain of others. Such a person would give advice to an unhappy person, You will be more liked if you smile more; the advice to a depressed person is to feel happy."
"Thatís not what Iím suggesting, Richard, and you know it. Iím not saying we simply ignore tragedy or sadness or that we stick our heads into the sand like ostriches to avoid facing lifeís unpleasantness."
"Donít mean to rain on your parade, if thatís what Iím doing. Be happy. Easy to say. How does the distressed person do that? One could generalize that while much suffering goes on with being alive and being human, most suffering, as the ancient stoics, Taoists and Buddhists discovered is due to two factors; Egotism and How We View Events."
"Well, isnít that what I said, in the first place, in my article? You seem to overlook that I pointed out clearly to experience joy is a matter of effort and focus and spirituality and altruism."
"So you did! ...Still, Helga, your paper seems to be a definition of joy and why itís a good thing to seek, but doesnít suggest any steps that increase the readerís chances of finding it."
"That's a fair comment, Richard. I could have elaborated on that.... As I recall, I did say we often miss the good stuff right in front of us because we donít pay attention.... Yes, it IS very much a matter of how we view events---I had a revelation of sorts, along those lines, some years ago, which has remained with me ever since and influenced my response to lifeís painful situations---During an episode of extreme anguish I suddenly visualized my inner self, my very tissue, fiber and muscle, wounded, red, aching and raw, but desperately trying to heal itself, while psychologically, there I was tearing and clawing away at it, making the wounds gape and bleed afresh. When I saw this so clearly, experienced this lucid moment, it woke me up. I decided, then and there, I would never do that to myself again. I didnít make all those wounds; many were out of my control; but I would never contribute to them again. In future I would be kind to myself."
"Yes! Be your own best friend - your own moral support...very good advice, Helga."
"Thatís it. That Ė and try to do what one can to help others."
No response....
"Hello, Richard. Are you there? Is there something wrong with my Service Provider? Are we down again?" Oh, good - You're back...."
"One excellent solution to the problem of being mistaken for Pollyanna or Marie Antoinette Ė who is said to have said about her subjects having no bread, Let them eat cake Ė is to discuss Flow. A solution you chose to ignore mentioning. A way to lose oneself in an activity. You mentioned Joseph Campbell Ė Another excellent solution is to elaborate on his idea that each event in life can be a sacrament. Having wine with friends can be a sacrament.
In a Buddhist story, a student asked, "How can I find spiritual bliss?" The answer was "Start by washing your own rice bowl and cleaning up after yourself." For Campbell, even menial tasks can be full of bliss if you have the right attitude; you are participating in the great adventure of life.
The advantage of viewing life as a series of small sacraments is that it is joyful to leave behind our ego and merge with the larger universe. This is related to hypnosis and the state of mind achieved during meditation and biofeedback used to produce alpha waves."
"Sorry, I missed it, Richard, going with the flow as in writing about it, but I was being spontaneous! I wrote what I had to say as it occurred to me."
"Aha! That's Flow!"
"Iím happy to hear it."
"Okay. You are right; you need to go with the flow of your own creativity. My excuse: I was just going with the flow of my own creativity in my reaction to your paper."
See what I mean about my mentor...?
"Sacramental joy. Thatís another way one can realize many precious moments on a daily basis. For me, for example, it starts with the early morning quiet, seeing the sunrise, being grateful that itís the beginning of a brand new day, the sensations of my soothing morning shower, that first cup of coffee, lunch with my best friend...."
"So sacramental joy is a deep appreciation of what already exists while flow is joyful growth."
"Iím with you!"
"And you say youíre not the Daughter of Joy?"

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**Quote - Two lessons of Pollyanna - By Chuck Bennett

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Want More Joy? Some Recommended Reading:

Flow : The Psychology of Optimal... Experience - by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and these additional ground-breaking works by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life Ė Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention Ė Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living Ė by Diane K. Osbon

Myths to Live By Ė by Joseph Campbell


~ Helga Marion Ross ~

Copyright 2001


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